Friday, January 19, 2007


You can't say that!

Isaiah Washington can't get a break.
"Isaiah who?" you say.
"Isaiah Washington," I repeat. "He plays one of the lead roles in the television programme 'Grey's Anatomy. It's not very good."
"What's gone on?" you utter, entirely ignorant of the man's existence or his supposed bad luck.
"I'll tell you," I say. "He was alleged to have referred to co-star TR Knight as a 'faggot', a claim he has steadfastly denied."
"Well, in denying that he called Mr knight a 'faggot' he used the word 'faggot'. He has now been attacked by various groups such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for using the word to deny using the word. He has since apologised."
"Mr Goodballoon, at the risk of you talking for any longer, I must ask 'What is your point?'" you cry.
"Well, I think it's a bit rum for a man to be criticised for using a word that he is denying having used in a wholly separate context. It a got me thinking about the current use of some words..."
"I'm sorry, I must be leaving." You say departing.
"Very well, I shall turn this conversation into a soliloquy:
I have noticed, of late, a most worrying trend,
Amongst them and us, foe and friend.
Our newscasters report, Too much party line,
Taking word for word, All of the time.
Escalations and surges, Insurgents and death,
One must look between the lines, whilst meeting the press."

God, that was tiring. Anyway, what I was trying to say was that the way language is being used on television and in the press at the moment has caused me concern. The term 'insurgent' is used constantly for those opposing the US-led forces in Iraq. Now, whilst the term is correct it carries with it an entirely different set of meanings than the word 'revolutionary' which a great many people, (particularly in the USA) revel in. We call them 'insurgents' 'cos they aren't us and if they aren't us then they must be the bad guy, right?

We also have the case where a few sections of the press refer to Bush's escalation in Iraq as a 'surge'. A 'surge' is not a military term; if you are raising troop numbers by 20,000 that is an escalation. Like in Vietnam.

One other strange connection of words I heard this morning was the phrase (repeated ad infinitum) 'multicultural, tolerant society'. Again, I see the point; we are a nation whose ambition is to reach a stage where, provided you break no laws, you are free to behave as you wish. The strange aspect of this was that it was being used to refer to people of an ethnic minority and, as such, the idea of 'tolerating' seemed strangely old fashioned and not a little offensive. It creates a picture of 'putting up with' rather than embracing, welcoming or, dare I say it, assuming other ideas and traditions.

I hope I have shown through my sloppy spelling, diabolical grammer and split-infinitives, is that our language is a precise, poetic, evolving creation that can dazzle and inspire. As an evolutionary body it is constantly adapting to it's everyday uses so when we put up with the inane ramblings and second-rate minds of those we find on Sky News, Breakfast or ITV as a whole, we allow a little piece of that language to die and a new less articulate piece to spring up. Don't put up with it. If you do, they win; their point will be made without their having to make it themselves and then you'll feel like a right bunch of retards.

Can I say that?

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